Eudora businessman plans free weekend benefit festival for Kansas tornado victims

EUDORA, Kan. – A Eudora businessman has organized a tornado relief benefit festival this weekend.

It’s been nearly a month since an EF-4 tornado ripped through parts of Douglas and Leavenworth counties, damaging dozens of homes and businesses. Some people have yet to start rebuilding.

George Laupee and his wife have a home near US Highway 59, near Lawrence. They were lucky.

“We weren’t sure if there’d be any house above us, but there was,” the 84-year-old said.

Two 60-foot cottonwood trees fell on top of their house, causing about $15,000 in damage.

“One of the big limbs came through the roof, into our bedroom and jabbed into the bed, our bed that we normally sleep in,” he said. “So we were fortunate that we had gone to the basement.”

Laupee said cleanup has been “time consuming.” Crews just started making repairs on his house on Tuesday.

Aaron Thakker

Aaron Thakker owns an electrical and general contracting business is nearby Eudora. He called the devastation in Douglas and Leavenworth counties “insane.”

“Eudora was about a mile out of the way [of the path of the tornado],” Thakker said. “It could’ve torn right through Eudora.”

Thakker has spent the last three weeks organizing a relieve benefit for tornado victims.

“We just want Linwood, the people affected in Lawrence or anywhere, all the surrounding communities -- we want them to know there’s a ton of people who care about them,” he said.

Thakker is spending his own money, an estimated $3,000, to host the benefit at Laws Field in Eudora on Friday.

“We’ll have three bands, an exotic petting zoo with a monkey and kangaroo, fire-breathers, bounce houses, obstacle courses,” he said. “We’ll have food, a beer garden, snow cones. We’ll have all sorts of stuff.”

The Eudora City Commission approved permits needed to have a beer and a firework show at the event. Thakker’s insurance agent is covering the cost of insuring the event and several companies have donated or given discounts for their goods and services during the benefit.

“We want to show the surrounding communities that were affected by the tornado that Eudora wants to help,” Thakker said.

The event is free, but donations are welcomed. Thakker said 100% of the proceeds will go to nonprofit groups, Heart to Heart and the Douglas County Community Foundation.

“For Aaron to have an event like this to highlight the need in our community for financial assistance for people, it’s just wonderful and Community Foundation is very grateful,” said Heather Hoy, the philanthropy and community relations chair for the Douglas County Community Foundation.

Thakker said even if they don’t raise a lot money, he just wants tornado victims to have one night away from the devastation.

“It’s a time to come out and relax, so they can forget about a lot of the stuff,” he said. “Just come out, have a good time, meet some people, figure out what you can do and just have some fun.”

The tornado relief benefit is Friday from 6:30-10 p.m. at Laws Field, located at 1428 Elm Street in Eudaora, Kansas. The festivities will end with a firework show.

If you’re interested in attending the event, click this link for updates.

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